Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A wasted week?

Just preparing for a trip to London for three days of tasting. I'll probably put 300 different wines in my mouth, and I'll probably end up writing about a maximum of 15 of them. In other words, more than 95% of what I sample will go unreported.

Is it worth the effort? And equally importantly, is it worth the people who have invited me to these events inviting me again? Personally, I do find it worth the effort - most of the time. I find tasting and talking about wine to be the quickest way of improving my knowledge. It's like exercise - the more you do it, the fitter you get, and if you stop doing it, you soon run to seed. There are some writers who do taste more than I do - Matthew Jukes gets through phenomenal amounts - but not many. It means that I'm reasonably qualified to give opinions (both to readers and to producers/importers/etc) on what I try, and to compare wines with those of other parts of the world. And obviously, those who invite me wouldn't keep on inviting me if I were just taking the piss and turning up for the free lunch.

And yet... Tomorrow, I'll be spending probably 3-4 hours tasting through wines from South West France. It's an event organised by the French, so there will be little information of use in the catalogue - I may get an importer's name if I'm lucky, but nothing useful like UK prices and stockists. Which will then mean more hours collating info on the wines I'm interested in, a few disappointments when I find that a particular wine is only available by the palate, and several weeks wait while the winery sends me another sample from France - I always try to retaste wines I'm going to recommend in the cold light of my kitchen, away from the persuasive charms of well-dressed young Frenchwomen...

Wouldn't it just be easier to sit on my bum and ring up my favourite importers for some samples? Perhaps. But that's how wine writers get lazy. As I said earlier, there is that danger of running to seed and becoming complacent, being stuck with opinions that were valid five years ago but which are now out of date. So I will be there tomorrow, putting in the hours and hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Expect my verdict on one of the unsung regions of the French wine world here in the coming days.


Colin said...

"I find tasting and talking about wine to be the quickest way of improving my knowledge". I absolutely agree.

And, as with the Argentina tasting last week, there may also be the occasional seminar at these tastings which also helps expand the knowledge.

My challenge at these tastings is palate fatigue however. I find it really hard after tasting around 25 wines to make detailed notes. I suppose practice makes perfect.


For me, mammoth tastings are not places to do detailed notes - if there are wines I want to find out more about, I'll aim to catch up with them at a later date. While I'm not a huge fan of scoring wines, I do find that my palate seems to be in a fair shape for a reasonable amount of time after my handwriting begins to deteriorate (probably not supposed to say something like that....)

But back to tasting notes - and you may find a post on this coming up soon - I question how useful detailed notes of wines' flavours are. Sounds like I'm putting myself out of a job? Not really. I seek to write about wine in a way that gets people enthusiastic about the subject, not give them lists of fruit and veg. I could describe a wine in terms of all the various tastes I detect, but if I say something like 'slips down like a builder's trousers', it's far more effective at pointing people to wines I want to big up.